A major worldwide study has identified genes likely to cause type 2 diabetes, helping researchers to build a picture of who is most at risk of developing the condition.

The findings could help scientists develop new treatments with the research being hailed as an important milestone in the development of “genetic risk scores”.

The study, which was led by the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford, looked a diverse populations to deepen the understating of the role genes play in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from the DIAMANTE (DIabetes Meta-ANalysis of Trans-Ethnic association studies) Consortium examined 122 different studies, comparing the DNA of nearly 181,000 people with type 2 diabetes with 1.16 million people who didn’t have the condition.

The aim was to pinpoint genetic differences between those with the disease and those without it. Previous large-scale studies have concentrated on people of European descent, so in this latest research, almost 50% of the data was taken from people from East Asian, African, South Asian and Hispanic population groups.

Co-author Cassandra Spracklen, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Massachusetts, said: “Up to now, over 80% of genomic research of this type has been conducted in white European-ancestry populations, but we know that scores developed exclusively in individuals of one ancestry don’t work well in people of a different ancestry.”

University of Oxford professor Mark McCarthy said: “Because our research has included people from many different parts of the world, we now have a much more complete picture of the ways in which patterns of genetic risk for type 2 diabetes vary across populations.”

The team has now identified 117 genes that are likely to cause type 2 diabetes, 40 of which have not been reported before.

The study has been published in the journal, Nature Genetics.

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